The No Matter What League -- Friends - Austin's Foundation for Success
A look back at the origin of the Friends - Austin chapter
In the origin story of Friends - Austin, it was a pair of friends, Nancy Pollard and Rachel Arnold, whose desire to curb systemic inequalities began the process of opening the Austin chapter of the national nonprofit Friends of the Children in 2017. Pollard and Arnold’s drive to build the organization required much more than ambition, research, and planning, but also the recruitment of many individuals to value the mission and act as a supportive network. Sparked by Pollard and Arnold’s dedication, Friends of the Children - Austin soon became the dream of a cadre of founding donors.
The Very Beginning: Rachel Arnold, the founding board chair of the Friends - Austin chapter, was working with a software company that serves clients in the nonprofit sector when she met Terri Sorensen, the Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Children. Working with over 6,000 customers, Arnold was most impressed that Friends of the Children was continually noted as the number one most successful client when it came to quantifying data. “The model was so clear and concise and powerful. The mission moves your heart, and the outcomes capture your mind,” Arnold noted.
Sorensen mentioned that Friends of the Children was interested in expanding its reach and that there was a federal grant opportunity to launch an Austin chapter if $1.7 million could be raised by private philanthropy. Arnold shared this information with Nancy Pollard who was very excited about the idea of bringing this program to Austin. Pollard was working as an attorney and volunteer advocate for CASA of Travis County, who acknowledged that while Austin’s economy was booming, there were far too many children who continued to struggle in the midst of Austin’s growth.
As noted in an early media interview with Tribeza magazine, Pollard said: “I want people to know that despite all the wonderful things we have going on in Austin, there are children being written off starting when they’re just five or six. It starts very early … we can think about all the negatives that will compound over the next 12 years, or we can get these children set on a new path starting at five or six and see the positives compound.”
Pollard knew that in a city of entrepreneurs who value tangible outcomes, Austin was a good match for Friends’ model.